History is colour-blind

Re-writing history is one of the oldest tricks used in history.

Those who feel they had lost claim that history until now had been written by the victors. This, they say, is wrong. So, they insist, what history books teach is a bunch of lies, and society should put a stop to it.

An interesting notion. More often than not wrong, too.

Even though some examples seem to be nodding in that direction.

Such as: Spanish students don’t find much in their history textbooks about the battle of Trafalgar, other than that the Brits were perfidious, as they always have been.

English students, on the other hand, learn how important that battle was, and how Admiral Nelson turned the tide of history by his victory, adding that the Spanish had been valiant and that’s what made the victory even more important.

The facts remain simple: there was a naval battle, the English won, and history continued marching on.

It was all about interpretation of facts.

Times have changed. Now we have politicians who want to change the facts themselves. Facts contained in today’s history books are bloody lies, they say, and that’s why those textbooks must be banned forthwith, and no history be taught until and unless new textbooks appear (under their seal of approval).

As reported by a number of more or less reliable sources, including the ABC network and commentator Sean Hannity of Fox News, “A group of leaders in the State of Illinois are demanding the school board ‘remove current history books’ until they develop a suitable ‘alternative’ curriculum for students and teachers.”

The demand is based on the view that current curricula are wrong about what these individuals call Black History (their capitals, not mine).

As a minimum, people such as Meleika Gardner of We Will, should be called out because of outright racism: there is no such thing as black history, just as there is no such thing as yellow, or red, or white, even, history. There is history, period.

It is not known with any certainty, either, what exactly is this group, We Will, and whom it represents. There is an outdoor 2005 welded stainless steel sculpture, named We Will, by Richard Hunt, installed in Chicago. The calls about re-writing history books come from the same state of Illinois.

Nothing really new

Not so long ago, just several decades ago, a group of unknown size that identified itself as “concerned parents” called on a school board to have two books removed from school libraries. Both by Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. They were The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1876 and 1884 respectively.

The books used the vocabulary of the time of their birth. That, especially using the word Negro to describe persons of black skin complexion, could offend somebody’s sensibilities beyond repair, the objectors claimed. Besides, children shouldn’t even know such a word existed.

Of course, to be able to even speak about them, teachers would have had to read these books, and know a bit of history, as well.

So: young Huckleberry Finn, as colourful a character as any you will find in world literature, finds himself in a dilemma. He encounters and helps a run-away slave.

Huck has been taught all of his young life that helping run-away slaves was a sin, and that the culprit would end his life in hell. While we’re at it, Huck has been taught that hell was a frightful place to end up in. Sinners who land there would be engulfed for ever and a day by eternal flames, boiled in pressure cookers, with the awfully persistent sounds of non-lubricated dental drills filling the air on top of it all.

Huck doesn’t have to think too long. To hell with hell, he decides. The run-away slave is as human a being as anybody, he deserves to live his life the way he wants to live it. So, Huck not only does not reveal, not even when he himself is in danger, he knows where the slave is hiding, he goes a few steps further: he helps the slave reach his freedom.

This is humanism at its best.

And that, to some illiterates, may offend somebody’s sensibilities.

The more illiterate they are, the more arrogant (and persistent). Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, disappeared from that school district library’s shelves in no time.

By the way, we have sunk so low that it takes now an effort to find and purchase these two world-class jewels of literature in unabridged form, and the publisher who dared do so, feels like a hero (and says so on the covers of these two books).

Politics, not history

Illinois State Representative Lawshawn Ford felt he had to add his voice to the dim: “When it comes to teaching history in Illinois,” he proclaimed, “we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans. I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history.”

Strong words, those, but still nothing when compared to what came next out of State Representative Lawshawn Ford’s mouth: “Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved. I’m also alarmed that people continue to display symbols of hate, such as the recent display of the Confederate flag in Evanston.”

Ah, and here’s the point that triggered it.

Someone in Evanston, almost a Chicago suburb, is still unhappy about how the American civil war ended. It began in 1861, because of a major disagreement between the northern states loyal to the Union and southern states that had seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. It was about the enslavement of black people. The North hated it, the South loved it.

The South lost in 1865.

That happened to be the year slavery was unconditionally banned all over the United States of America.

Now, 155 years after that fact, someone in Evanston displayed a Confederate flag. Whether this was an idiotic attempt at being provocative, or an even more idiotic attempt at being funny, or whether that person is just a sore loser, none of it matters.

The deed was done, and the ideologues saw yet another reason to get hot around their collars.

Who’s who

Here’s why State Representative Ford thinks he knows whereof he speaks: after graduating from Chicago’s Weber High School, he attended the Niles College Seminary at Loyola University in town. He first thought of becoming a priest.

Instead, Lawshawn Ford would end up with a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Loyola, adding a minor in political science. He also played basketball while at Loyola, which happens to be an important part on his resume: he would start his working life as a history teacher and basketball coach for Chicago Public Schools.

What made him become a licenced Illinois real estate broker is not really important, what is that he did become one.

A founder of Ford Desired Real Estate in 2001, today’s Illinois State Representative Ford has served as a member of the Chicago and National Association of Realtors, board member of the Austin YMCA, board member of Circle Family Care, board member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, founding organizer of Zawadi Youth Group, and member of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church Parish Council and Finance Committee.

He would enter politics as a Democratic precinct captain in the neighbourhood where he grew up.

And that neighbourhood was nothing much to write home about. Ford’s family was as poor as a church mouse. He never met his father. His mother was an unwed teen, and Ford was adopted by his grandmother at birth.

Looking back, Lawshawn Ford has been quite successful in his life, and he deserves heartfelt congratulations for all he had achieved.

With one exception: he seems to want to become a Messiah. That hasn’t worked for anybody in history yet, and if Illinois State Representative Lawshawn Ford really means it, he has a pretty uphill battle looming.

Picky, picky

It is quite interesting, by the way, how strangely selective these ideologues are when it comes to reasons for getting angry.

Anyone displays a black swastika on red background, and all hell breaks loose.

Anyone displays a yellow star, with yellow hammer and sickle, on red background, and they are the nicest progressive people on earth (and beyond).

These two kinds of symbols belong to ideological twin brothers, Nazism and Communism. Not knowing it, or ignoring it, is a sign of complete illiteracy.

Steve Hagerty, the mayor of Evanston, the place guilty of displaying a Confederate flag, was at least honest about his lack of knowledge. Still, he adopted an approach known by its popular acronym, CYA (it stands – loosely – for cover your behind): “As Mayor, I am not comfortable speaking on education, curriculum, and whether history lessons should be suspended. This is not my area. Personally, I support House Bill 4954 because I am interested in learning more and believe the history of Black people should be taught to all children and include all groups, Women, LatinX, and Native Indians who helped to build America.”

Yes, Illinois State Representative Lawshawn Ford holds a bachelor of arts degree that allowed him to teach history in local elementary schools. That still does not really mean he really knows much about history, or about teaching, for that matter.

His argument is based on a racial proposition. Racism is an ideology. Ideologies have not got much in common with facts. They are based on faith.

Believe, and your faith will heal you. Yes, absolutely, with a healthy dose of Aspirin and a doctor’s visit thrown in.

People who want to re-write history textbooks to make them match their ideology, rather than matching history, may have the finest goals in mind.

They forgot one minor thing of major importance: history and their ideology do not match. And neither does their rhetoric about continuing and systemic racial discrimination match the facts.

It is up to each and every one of us to set goals in life for ourselves, and work hard to achieve them.

Illinois State Representative Lawshawn Ford is proof that it can be done. Without re-writing anything. Including history books.

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